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Suit alleges NCAA policy exploits walk-on players

5/20/2004 - Washington Huskies

SEATTLE -- A former Washington walk-on is suing the NCAA,
claiming the organization violates federal antitrust laws by
limiting the number of football scholarships that can be awarded.

Andy Carroll, who played receiver and special teams before
graduating in 2000, filed a proposed class-action lawsuit Wednesday
in U.S. District Court.

"Schools limit the number of scholarships, but they function on
the unseen player, the walk-on player," Carroll said Thursday.
"They wouldn't survive without them. I feel they should be
compensated."

The lawsuit seeks to end scholarship restrictions, and it seeks
unspecified damages on behalf of all non-scholarship players on
NCAA Division I-A football rosters over the past four years.

NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said the lawsuit has no merit
because "numerous courts" have determined that competing in
intercollegiate athletics is a privilege and not a right.

"The NCAA has also successfully defended the right of its
member institutions to establish rules governing the administration
of intercollegiate athletics, including the right to set the limit
and value of grants-in-aid," Christianson said. "This case flies
in the face of previous court decisions."

Carroll's lawyer, Steve Berman, said thousands of former players
could be included if the case is certified as a class action.

Berman said it's unfair for schools to restrict football
scholarships when many Division I-A coaches earn seven-figure
salaries and the NCAA and its members reap millions of dollars from
TV contracts and other revenues.

"The NCAA's artificial limit on the number of football
scholarships is classic cartel behavior," the lawsuit says. "The
NCAA and its member institutions control big-time college football.
The NCAA uses that control to maximize revenues and minimize
costs."

Carroll, now a Seattle real estate salesman, claims Washington
coaches led him to believe he could receive a scholarship during
his playing career but was told later that none was available.

He was no Rudy Ruettiger, the former Notre Dame walk-on who
finally got in for the final play of his last home game.

Carroll lettered three straight seasons from 1997-99. He turned
down potential scholarship offers from other schools -- including
Oregon State, UNLV and smaller colleges -- because he wanted to be a
Husky.

"There were parts of me that said maybe I could go to a smaller
school and be a starter, maybe even be a star, but I wanted to
prove to myself that I could play on the bigger stage," he said.

Carroll said he understood from Washington coaches that nothing
was promised when he agreed to walk on.

"Totally. You do enter it with nothing promised," he said.
"But there is the indication that if you get on the field and
produce for the program, you have the potential to earn a
scholarship. You feel you've earned it and when you go to ask for
it, you're told they don't have it."

The NCAA limits Division I-A football teams to 85 scholarship
players. Until 1977, schools were allowed to offer as many
scholarships as they saw fit -- an era when top programs routinely
stockpiled top players.

The number of scholarships was set at 95 from 1977-91; at 92 in
1992; and 88 in 1993. It has been at 85 since 1994.

Proponents say the reductions have made it easier for smaller
colleges to compete against traditional heavyweights, as well as
making it easier for all colleges to comply with federal Title IX
gender-equity rules that require the same number of scholarships
for men and women.

Berman said the scholarship reductions haven't altered the
landscape of college football, and the lawsuit says the limits
actually have helped maintain the most successful programs at the
expense of lesser schools.

"If you look back at the dominant schools of the early 1970s,
the '60s and '50s, the dominant schools of today are the same: Texas,
USC, Michigan and the like," he said. "There hasn't really been
any difference because of this rule."

Berman is considered one of the nation's top class-action
lawyers, representing Washington in the $206 billion settlement
between several states and the four major tobacco companies.